"The Damnyankees got the Devil with 'em."
Seth Carpenter generally didn't pay a lot of attention to the women when they gossiped around the fireplace of a night. Men didn't bother with that kind of palaver. Maybe he was only thirteen, but he was a Man, by gum, because Pappy had put him in charge of the place when he went off fighting the Damnyankees.
Except Pappy hadn't done so good. He hadn't been gone a month, when his stuff come back with a scrawled "We regrets to inform you, Miz Carpenter" note that the preacher had read to Mam a week later. Not that she didn't already know when the stuff come back ... didn't take words on paper to tell her what'd happened.
So now Seth was in charge, permanent like. Mam hadn't liked it much, but he'd made some changes. Ground didn't get plowed and stock tended by itself, and he didn't see any good reason why his sisters couldn't shed some petticoats, tie up their skirts, and put a hand to it too. Yep, and pick up Seth's old squirrel rifle (he used Pappy's now) and learn to shoot something for the pot.
"Someone will see their legs!"
That was a laugh. Even if they weren't living in a holler so small it didn't even have a name, who would see them legs but God and other womenfolk? And he didn't reckon God cared.
Girls didn't care either. In fact, he reckoned Cassie fair relished being shut of them petticoats, the way she frisked around. They'd got through the summer and fall pretty good, better'n most, had a good harvest--and that was another change Seth had made. Army had taken Pappy, so he figgered they'd paid the Army 'bout all they owed. Talked Mam around to that notion too, though, mind, it hadn't taken much talking. Most of the harvest went into hiding, and so did the stock. And when collectors came around looking, there weren't much to take away.
Butchering hadn't been easy, but by then, Mam had come around to the notion that there were times when womenfolk needed to do things as weren't proper. So when time came to do the winter hunting and butchering, she'd been right there, looking a fair sight thinner without all that cloth flapping around. So they'd got the farm pig done and smoked up, and he'd got a wild sow too; pure luck, that was, she was in the larder now. Traded the rest of the pigs for what Mam didn't do--and for white flour and gunpowder. Took down some geese and ducks in passage, smoked them. With winter here and frost on the ground of a morning, he was working now on his stalking-gear, because deer cost a bullet apiece, and he didn't reckon on wasting any.
With winter solid, there was time for visiting, though, which, what with Seth and the girls all chopping wood, meant that as the Carpenter hearth was the coziest, and the Carpenter larder seemed a little better stocked than most, seems the womenfolk turned up here more often than not.
Well, Seth didn't mind. There was always a big pot of blackeyed peas with a hambone in it, plenty of johnnycake, and truth to tell, the women did come in handy. Didn't mind helping Mam out before everybody settled to jabber. Did some sewing and the like for her. Had a quilting bee. Pretty handy.
Except when they started turning their tongues to stuff like this.